Sunday, November 1, 2009


Last year, around this time, I went in on a wagon full of squash with my neighbor. Unfotunately, I didn't get to actually experience picking out the squash (she went without me) and I didn't have any idea what to do so much squash. I roasted and pureed quite a bit of it, but I also ended up composting a lot of it because I just couldn't get motivated to do the work.

However, since then, I've been dreaming of sqaush and looking forward to trying it again this year. So, with dreams of building a root cellar dancing in my head, I counted down the days until the end of the local farm season. My dreams were nearly dashed by an early snow storm that dropped 20 inches on us in the middle of October, but the good folks at Munson Farm knew the storm was coming, harvested as much squash as possible, and saved it from the freeze. So, Saturday Kathy and I headed down there to collect some squash. While we didn't get quite the deal we got last year(they, understandably had less squash to work with this year), we still managed to get a loaded up wagon full for $99. How big was the wagon? Huge. We ended up with 35 squash each: cinderella pumpkin, lumina, white pumpkin, delicata, buttercup, acorn, spaghetti, butternut, blue pumpkin, banana squash, carnival squash, cheese pumpkin, musquee de provence pumpkin, and a few French heirloom varieties (like a pink one with warts) whose names I can't recall.
I worried about the ability of my little Saturn to get all that squash home (we were riding low), but we made it and I managed to move them from the trunk to the floor of my garage (I cut the piles of bicycles out of the picture above) while I prepare the pantry.

So, stay tuned for all kinds of squash in all kinds of ways.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pumpkin Penne

When I found out I was pregnant, Josh's mom gifted us with a subscription to Parents magazine. If you know anything about this publication, then you know that we aren't exactly their target demographic. It's a mainstream magazine with fairly traditional politics and articles that explain why you should be careful because that frozen meal isn't as healthy as the packaging claims. Ahem.

That said, every month I feel compelled to read it. Often they have cute ideas for craft projects and sometimes creative ways of styling food for kid's parties or packed lunches. Recently, there was a really interesting excerpt on introducing solids that focused on veggies and a much quicker introduction schedule--a technique that's supposed to instill a love of veggies. Anyway, in the same issue, they had a quick weeknight dinner recipe: pumpkin penne. Josh immediately expressed an interest in it, so, after a long day of writing, I went about veganizing it. It turned out pretty good and, along with some cranberry sauce that's been in our freezer since last T-day, it made for a nice early thanksgiving-type meal.
Pumpkin Penne
Adapted from Parents Magazine

1 lb. Penne
1 T coconut oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup veggie broth
1/2 cup soy milk
1 heaping T. cornstarch
1 can pumpkin puree
1/4 heaping cup of nutritional yeast
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne
1/8 t ginger
1/2 t salt
1/2 t fresh coarse-ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Cook penne according to package directions. Heat oil in sauce pan, add shallots, and saute until they are just starting to turn brown. While cooking the shallots, whisk together cornstarch and soy milk. Once shallots are done, add soy milk mixture, veggie broth, and pumpkin. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Add spices and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (or do so individually). Pour over penne. Mix in flat-leaf parsley and serve.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chickpea Noodle Soup with Heels of Rye

I was always one of those people who could honestly and rightfully say that I very rarely get sick, but such boasting now seems to be very much a thing of the past. Since I discovered I was pregnant just over a year or so ago, I've been sick four or five times. Between that and the gestational diabetes and the recurring mastitis, I'm pretty sure this kid is trying to kill me (I knew the resemblance to Hitchcock must be some kind of omen).

The good news is that an early freeze has made soup seem perfect. I love soup and living in a place where there are actually seasons makes soup all the more pleasing. So, when I came down with the crud a week or two after the boys did, I knew that chicken noodle soup was in order. I'm sure that this recipe is just an amalgamation of others out there; in fact, I remember seeing Happy Herbivore use chickpeas in one she made last year or so, and Isa also has them in her recipe. But, I threw this together quickly (adding everything that I vaguely remember hearing has healing properties) and thought it turned out good enough to post. Also, a word of warning: I'm not sure why (probably the boatloads of pepper), but this soup immediately made me break out in a sweat and my fever broke later that night. So, I guess that's good?
Chickpea Noodle Soup
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 large stalk of celery, sliced
5 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
6 cups water
2 T Better than Bouillon No Chicken
1 piece of kombu
1 bay leaf
1 T white miso
1 T dried parsley (though I'd use fresh if you've got it)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
8 oz pasta, slightly undercooked
Lots of fresh ground pepper and salt to taste

Saute onion, celery, and carrots in a small amount of olive oil over medium high heat until the onions start to turn translucent. Add garlic and saute for a minute more. Add water and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and add bouillon, kombu, bay leaf, and miso. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chickpeas and pasta. Cook for 5-10 more minutes, then add parsley, salt, and pepper. Serve with homemade rye bread (thanks Peter Reinhardt!).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Weeknight Mulligatawny

Last week, the temperatures here were beginning to drop (and rise and drop...) and I was in the mood for soup. I love soup. Almost any kind. But, mulligatawny is one of my favorites and, for some reason, people have come to associate it with me. After a long-ish day of prepping and teaching and performing teacherly tasks, I was hungry and looking to eat in as little time as possible. So, I through together this quick version of mulligatawny out of the items we happened to have left in the fridge in the days leading up to payday.
Speedy Quick Mulligatawny
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 cups vegetable broth
1 T flour
1 T curry
1 t crushed red pepper
1 t salt
2 T tomato paste
1/3 cup mango chutney
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drains
1 bunch of beet greens, rinsed and chopped

In a small amount of oil, saute onion, carrot, and celery over medium high heat until onions are translucent. Add flour and spices and cook for 1 more minute. Add broth, tomato paste, and chutney. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans and cook for 5 more minutes. Turn off heat and add beet greens. Serve with fresh ground pepper and some nooch. And, if you have it, some fresh cilantro is nice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Rebellion: Vegan Pizza in South Denver

Last week, we made a trip down to Denver to pick up a newly refinished record cabinet. What started out as a quick trip to get the furniture turned into a group of us trying out a new pizza place I discovered online, getting the cabinet, shopping at the fanciest Goodwill I've ever seen, a stop at the punk rock flea market, and hanging out at Suburban Home Records to celebrate their 14th anniversary (check out the Drunk Dial hotline). It was a lovely day and it was made all the more lovely by the discovery of decent vegan pizza in the Denver area (City O' City just isn't my speed).

We ordered an extra large Hawaiian pizza, onion rings, and bread sticks for around $22. The Hawaiian pizza had wonderful sauce, FYH cheese, Yves Canadian Bacon, and pineapple. The crust was perfect, neither thick nor thin, and they put on just the right amount of cheese. I've often found the cheese to be the deal breaker in vegan pizza. Either there's too much and it acquires a weird consistency or there's too little and and you might as well just throw some veggies on top of a piece of bread. But, not at The Rebellion:
Plus, you have to love a storefront that looks like the van from the A Team:
And, on top of all that, we have our own special parking:
It's like a little slice of vegan heaven in the midst of South Denver. Unfortunately, it's take-out only right now, so unless you live in the neighborhood, you have to find somewhere else to eat. but, there just so happens to be a park around the corner and several lovely thrift stores and mid-century modern consignment stores down the street. I might have found my favorite 6 block area in Denver.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Taco Salad: Comfort Food in a Bowl

One of the most comforting meals that I grew up with is taco salad. Now, admittedly, it had a far racier (ahem) name when I was growing up, but I blame it on the lack of political correctness that defined much of the late 70's and 80's. Despite such a questionable history, though, when burritos weren't on the menu--a rarity indeed--taco salad was. In hindsight, I recognize that this salad is just a deconstructed, dressed-up version of the burritos my mom so frequently served, but there's something about Fritos that changes this dish into something spectacular. My mom served her burrito filling over Fritos and topped it with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. Mine is served on top of a bed of chopped Romaine hearts, a layer of Fritos, and topped with chipotle ranch and cilantro (and, usually, fresh diced tomatoes). Josh texted me the other day when he took leftovers to say that he thinks this might be his favorite food ever.

I concur.

Taco Salad Filling
1 block of tempeh (crumbled in the food processor)
1/2 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 small zucchini, diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-ish cups of water
1 heaping tbsp. chili powder (I sometimes add more depending on the strength of the chili powder)
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 can of refried beans

In a small bowl, mix together spices. Set aside. Next, in a soup pan or large skillet, saute onion, pepper, and zucchini in a little bit of oil over medium high heat until onion turns translucent and all the veggies are beginning to brown. Add tempeh and saute until it too browns a little. Add spices and saute for a minute more, then add water and scrape any cooked on spices off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add tomatoes and corn. Cook until the mixture starts to thicken and the water is mostly cooked off. Stir in refried beans and heat through.

Serve over romaine and Fritos and top with whatever you like. This is particularly good with chipotle ranch, but salsa and guacamole are delicious toppers to.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

660 Curries: Sweet and Sour Chickpeas

To say that we have a lot of cookbooks is an understatement. Granted, I think we're still at the point where the majority of them are ones that Josh brought into the relationship, but I've quickly added to the collection (not at all unlike the kitchen appliance situation around here, but that's another story...) and it's now on the verge of outgrowing the full-size bookshelf that is designated as the cooking shelf. I get excited about every new cookbook, but rarely do I get as excited as I am about the latest addition to the collection: 660 Curries. Rhaghavan Iyer explains the history of curries, dispels misconceptions, spells out the main components of curries, and tells a little story or background to go with each of the recipes. It's a huge tome, with over half it's length dedicated to vegetable and legume curries. It's also a truly engaging book, one I've already found myself sitting down to read with a cup of coffee. And, in these dicey economic times, it's nice to have so many recipes at my fingertips that rely on such cheap and delicious ingredients. Case in point: Sweet and Sour Chickpeas. not only did this recipe make use of a pantry ingredient that I've had and not used for too long (tamarind concentrate), but I had every ingredient in my cupboards. The layers of flavors were divine and the spicy cardamom flavor of this curry went really well with the box of TJ's corn bread that's been sitting in my pantry for too long. I'm really, really looking forward to exploring a couple hundred more curries. At least.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watercourse Awesomeness

Every trip to Denver includes a trip to Watercourse. So, between having people out who want to see the baby, Josh's trip tp Minneapolis, and the Denver modernism show, I've been o both Denver and Watercourse pretty regularly as of late. Most people rave about their desserts, which I honestly think are just ok. However, their house-made seitan, cornmeal crusted onion rings, and plentiful breakfast offering do excite me. having so many vegan options, I try to try somehting new every time I'm there. Last time, I tried the Amsterdam Hash and, I have to admit, I have a new favorite breakfast. I don't generally like gravy but the scrambled tofu with grilled veggies smothered in gravy and served with a veggie flecked biscuit is divine. I highly recommend getting to Watercourse early. Saturdays tend to be packed with a 30-45 minute wait, but we showed up just after 8:00 and apparently beat the hung-over crowds.
Amsterdam Hash
Aspen modeling withe the refreshing Rosie Palmer (hibiscus tea and lemonade)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pesto Lasagna Pinwheels

For Aspen's first night in town, I decided to make something I knew she would like, which basically means I had to pick something carbalicious. I also knew that it should somehow involve squash so our kitchen and fridge doesn't get overrun by it. In addition to boatloads of squash, however, our basil is going crazy in the backyard. The back of our house faces south and gets direct sun just about the entire day, which turns out to be terrible for having an actual yard but really great for sun-loving plants. Go figure. I do use the basil for garnish and in some salads during the summer, but, for the most part, basil means pesto (which freezes incredibly well if you need to get a winter fix).

Around these parts, Josh is usually the lasagna guy since it seems like a lot of work to me and I wanted to do something different. So I decided on a pest lasagna that is rolled instead of layered. Honestly, it looks awesome and it tastes awesome, but trying to eat it is not so awesome. You could totally impress a date with your cooking skills (and with pretty minimal effort), but, once you serve it, you will most certainly undo that impression by looking like you just learned how to use a fork (not mention the nasty little habit pesto has of getting stuck in the corners of your teeth). So, be forewarned.

The good news is that 13 year olds love it. Her verdict?: "Mmmm..Good, very good. You should put this on the blog." Score one for vegan goodness.
(inspired by Vegandad's Ravioli with Pesto Cream)

12 lasagna noodles (cooked in salted water)

1 lb. extra firm tofu
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of pureed, roasted garlic
Handful of basil leaves torn into to tiny pieces
Salt, to taste

Crumble tofu by hand until it is the consistency of ricotta. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and set aside.

1 zucchini (sliced 1/8 inch wide, length-wise w/ a mandolin)
1 crookneck squash (sliced 1/8 inch wide, length-wise w/ a mandolin)
Oil for frying
Salt, pepper, and paprika, to taste

Heat oil over medium high heat. Lay as many squash as possible in the pan. Sprinkle squash with salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook until pliable (you'll have to be able to roll the squash). Remove from heat and let cool.

3 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. pureed, roasted garlic
1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
salt, to taste
water to thin out as needed (or more oil)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Process.

Pesto Pasta Pinwheels:

Rinse noodles to separate if needed. Lay out one noodle at a time. Spread a thin layer of ricotta the entire length of the noodle. Line up one piece of squash with one end of the noodle and carefully roll them into a wheel. Even though the squash is shorter, you'll want to start in the same place or the squash won't get rolled up entirely within the noodle. Place each of the rolls in a baking pan. When all twelve are rolled, add a small amount of water to the pan and bake in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with pesto. You can heat up the pesto separately or put in on before the boking, but it will darken depending on the method.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From the Homefront: Bagels and Garden Booty

I don't know why I put off trying bagels again for so long. Last time, I tried making a batch from a recipe that I found on the internet and they tasted good but were a disaster in every other sense. This time, they were damn near perfect, becasue I went straight to the god of bread-making: Peter Reinhart. I bought the The Bread Baker's Apprentice a while ago after hearing rave reviews about it everywhere. Boy, they weren't lying. These bagels turned out crispish on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Seriously, I would give up my first-born for these bagels (Sorry Aspen!), but, instead, she's going to help me make more while she's visiting so she can take some home to the fam.
I think I may have mentioned before that I have the same thing for breakfast every morning. Due to the gestational diabetes, I had to give up my morning bagel, but now that I've cooked these babies up, I'm back at it. Indeed, not only are the bagels homemade, but the toppings are now straight from our garden making for an almost entirely homemade breakfast (I leave the cream cheese up to the good folks at Toffutti). Due to an abnormally wet summer, our garden has been producing like crazy. I'm a bit surprised, given that I have a black thumb, but I also admittedly have very little to do with the garden. I decided I wanted one and picked out the seedlings, but Josh has done most of the work building the beds, watering, and picking the produce. I supervise from the window and stick my head out occasionally to water the basil in the pot right next to the back door. Why, you ask?

Motherfucking snakes in our motherfucking garden.

Every time I stick more than my head out the door, some snake goes sliding by underfoot. Don't get me wrong, I know that these little garden snakes are harmless and are actually good for the garden, but that doesn't stop those sneaky little fuckers from making sudden movements that inevitably make me shriek like a little girl, drop the baby, and run (ok, I'm being a bit hyperbolic but I do indeed shriek...even when there's really no snake and Josh just thinks it's funny to point and say "watch out for that snake!").

But, my supervisory position is paying off. We have more zucchini than we can use (almost), the tomatoes are starting to ripen in hordes, and we finally got the prize of all prizes: the lemon cucumber. For a while, we though our various types of squash go frisky with one another and produced some kind of mutant offspring, but no...These little yellow balls of sunshine are delicious, taste nothing like lemon, and make me very happy.
Ah, but I digress. The breakfast of breakfasts. The thing that makes getting out of a bed a little bit less painful in the morning. The lovely snack that also ends up being second breakfast on most days...:
A homemade jalapeno bagel with vegan cream cheese, fresh ground salt and pepper, and homegrown lemon cucumber, tomato, and basil. Yum. Yum.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Easy Week Night Dinner: Phyllo Pizza with Zucchini and Fresh Basil

For many, many years, I've been ambivalent about pizza--at best. I worked at Godfather's Pizza in the early 90's and, as most people who work in the food industry know, working around food can breed a deep dislike of specific foodstuffs due to overindulgence. For me, garlic cheese bread and pizza of any kind became completely unpalatable and I would eat pizza maybe once or twice a year after that.

However, something about going vegan makes a girl want some damn pizza. But, I am not at all into the amount of time it takes to make a good one. Luckily, Josh just happens to like making most of the things that I don't: lasagna, risotto, and pizza...hmmm, it just dawned on me that it's all Italian food. I don't go to Italian restaurants either. But I digress. We hadn't planned ahead. Josh was already lounging in front of the TV and I had recent issue of Cooking Light in hand and old frozen phyllo that needed to be used as part of the pantry challenge. Turns out, phyllo pizza is delicious and only a fraction of the work that's involved with making a decent crust by hand.
Sorry about the crappy photo. This was way better than it looks here.

Phyllo Pizza with Zucchini and Fresh Basil
(Adapted from July 2009 Cooking Light)

1 package of phyllo dough
1 log of Teese, grated
1 cup of Pantry pizza sauce (can of tom's, 2 T tomato paste, a splash of balsamic, some "Italian seasoning," and salt, cooked and blended)
1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh basil
Oil, in a spray can

Preheat oven to 450. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray. Working quickly (or use a damp towel instead of being lazy like me), separate sheets of phyllo. Put one down, spray it with oil, then repeat two more times. Laye the third sheet with a handful of grated Teese. Repeat, putting cheese down after every third sheet of phyllo, until phyllo is gone. Spread tomato sauce on top of layered phyllo, leaving a thin crust around the rim of the pizza. Put zucchini and red onion over sauce and then cover the whole thing with the remaining Teese. Cook until the phyllo is brown and cheese has melted.

I recommend letting the pizza sit for about 10 minutes before eating. This will ensure that you do not burn the roof of your mouth and the cheese will have a chance to set. Before serving, sprinkle with fresh basil and crushed red pepper.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carrots in my Cookies?

Since the last cookies turned out so good, I decided I had to try Heidi's carrot variation. A recent bout with too much ginger made me omit the fresh ginger and add 1/2 teaspoon of ceylon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger instead. They did not disappoint. The flavor is amazing, although I think they need something to bind them together a bit better. As it stands, they kind of just crumble when you eat them. Granted, the crumbs are amazingly tasty, but I'd still like to get as many of them in my mouth as possible, so I'm thinking a banana or flax egg or something of the sort might do the trick. I'm going to play around with this one and get back to you...

Update #1: I added one smashed banana to the recipe to bind the cookie and an additional 2 tablespoons of flour to balance out the moisture from the banana. The cookies are definitely less crumbly, but I think the taste suffers just a tad--though they're still delicious!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Oatmeal, Banana, Coconut, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

When we moved in together a year and a half ago, we combined resources, doubling our pantry stock. For the most, part, this wasn't a problem and things like noodles and beans went rather quickly. For a while there, we even managed to put a little dent in the 30 pounds of risotto that Josh brought to this domestic mix. On the other hand, the outrageously expensive almond meal I bought when I baked him a cake during the initial flushed months of dating ($14 bucks for a bag and I only used 1/4 cup), shredded coconut whose packaging insists that it's been around since before we met, coconut oil from my Skinny Bitch phase, and other odd products like soy milk powder have continued to sit and ponder becoming bug bait.

So, when I came across this recipe, I was intrigued by the fact that it doesn't use any sugar at all, relying instead on bananas for sweetness, but I was also happy to see that I could finally put a fair amount of that almond meal to use. These cookies turned out delicious.
Between the cheap Costco bananas and another bunch that was in the $1 bin at the health food store, I've been able to make these on the cheap and make room in the pantry--until I decided to make them for yesterday's potluck and had to buy more almond meal and coconut oil. Siiiiigh. My pantry may again be as full as ever, but these little sugar-free wonders were a big hit at the potluck and have been keeping bellies full around here for the past week.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pantry Challenge: The First Two Weeks

I have to admit that I've been finding this pantry challenge rather enjoyable. Every couple of days I find an ingredient that's been languishing in our cupboard or freezer for an inordinate amount of time and I start perusing the internet and/or my cookbooks for a recipe that makes use of it. So far most of those recipes have included zucchini, since our garden has been producing tons of it but I've also managed to make use of almond meal and coconut and TVP and flax meal (pictures and ideas to come). In case you're interested here's the breakdown of the first two weeks:

Week 1: Spent $17.84
2 cans chipotles in adobo
lighter fluid
2.5 lbs yellow squash
1 bunch of bananas
fresh mint
fresh sage
soft tofu
2 jalapenos
2 limes
1 red onion
5 roma tomatoes
1 bunch of cilantro
1 lb. rolled oats

Week 2: Spent $20.54
1/2 lb leek
Mother's Milk tea
collard greens
mustard greens
8 red potatoes
1 lb. tempeh
1 red onion
2 yellow onions
2 jalapenos
1/2 lb. fennel
1.3 lbs. yukon gold potatoes

My original goal was to use the 20 bucks a week to buy produce and, for the most part, I think I've done a pretty good job sticking to that goal. The Mother's Milk tea ($5.50) was an unexpected expense that I splurged on when I thought I needed it; without it, I would've been substantially under the $20 goal for the second week. I'm also gaining some perspective from keeping close track of my grocery spending. For instance, I made one trip to the store for salsa making ingredients, which came to a total of $1.76--for a decent sized batch of salsa.

Perhaps, though, the most shocking realization of all is that it's possible to go to Costco and not spend 200 bucks. Though the Costco trip was part of the 3rd week budget, we actually made it out of there with 4 pounds of tofu, 8 bananas, 10 ciabatta rolls, and 3 dozen tortillas for $15. It almost makes a Costco trip seem not worth it--but in a good way.

Sorry for the number heavy post, but I wanted to get it up before I lost the receipts. I'll be posting food and recipes as soon as I find the cord for my camera...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Potato Stir-Fry with Mint and Cilantro

While I already subscribe to Fine Cooking, I recently decided to splurge on the latest edition of Fine Cooking Fresh, since we don't get a copy with our subscription. Truth be told, I bought the magazine for one recipe: the potato stir-fry. Having discovered 2 bags of dried curry leaves in the process of the aforementioned pantry/freezer challenge, I was excited to find a recipe that called for them and also looks delicious. The recipe is in the side dishes section, but I added a can of drained garbanzo beans and called it dinner.
Verdict: One of the best new recipes I've tried. Loved, loved, loved it!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer 2009 Pantry/Freezer Challenge

With the newest addition to the family (it's a little weird saying that and not referring to a cat) and the fact that I didn't request any summer teaching and Josh is down to one paying job, I have been trying to think of ways to save money instead of writing my dissertation. And while I haven't yet bothered to sit down and actually figure out where we spend our money and come up with a budget based on that (numbers...yuck!), I do know that our biggest expense other than rent is food. The evidence of overspending on food is plain to see in our overfilled foodstuff coffers. We have 3 cupboards in the house full of dry goods, more dry goods in the walk in pantry out in the garage, and not one but two freezers full of food. When I find a shirt or pair of pants I like, I but one in every color; when I find food I like, I buy it at Costco. Add to that my general lack of organization and I tend to buy things like a 6 pound bag of dried pinto beans when we have at least 4 pounds stuck behind the jug of olive oil in the cupboard. Who needs 10 pounds of pinto beans?

Needless to say, a pantry challenge is in order. But, since it's also the height of farmer's market season, I've decided to give myself a budget of $20 a week for things like fresh produce and staples that run out during the course of the challenge--probably spices and the like. Since I recently found myself in the possession of a $100 bill, the initial length of the challenge will be 5 weeks and then I'll reassess. I honestly think we have enough food to get us through to the end of the year doing this, but I'm starting small.

Summer 2009 Pantry Challenge
Start: 05 July 2009
End:08 August 2009
Goals: Clean out the pantry and freezer, better organize foodstuffs, replace old stuff like waaaaay out of date spices, spend $20 or less on food weekly, lose 5 pounds (okay, so now I'm aiming high)
The first step was using some of those damn beans. We also happened to have a deluge of squash taking over our kitchen. On Saturday we got to the farmer's market late and got a fill your bag for $10 deal. I see squash and visions of calabacitas dance in my head. So, last night we had refried beans, fresh salsa, and calabacitas wraps. This is, undoubtedly, one of my all-time, top-five favorite meals and a good way to start this challenge.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

Lately I've been making a concerted effort to eat foods that I haven't tried before, with mostly good results. While I simply confirmed that I do indeed hate olives, even fancy Kalamata ones, I also learned that I love rhubarb. I made a cardamom rhubarb version of the East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch and was pleasantly surprised by the bright, tart flavor of the rhubarb (but, did anyone else find the topping of the coffee cake too flour-y?). Since then, it's been like rhubarbapalooza 'round these parts.

Come to find out, though, rhubarb is pricey. As usual, I just grabbed a handful of rhubarb, walked up to the checkout, and nearly had a heart attack when it rang up for $10. All my visions of cheap jam--a staple of Josh's diet--flew out the window. However I proceeded unabated and tackled the making and canning of my preserves. Unfortunately, I followed the Ball recipe for the first one, which called for 4 cups of fruit and 5 1/2 cups of sugar. Needless to say, visions of diabetes danced in my head with my first taste. Way to sweet for my taste and the sugar completely obscured the taste of the rhubarb. So, I gave those jars of strawberry flavored sugar to the kids next door and adjusted the recipe. After some tinkering and finding a whole bag of rhubarb for $1 in the eat-this today-at-your-own-risk bin at the natural foods store, I now have 10 pints of delicious rhubarby preserves which cost me about $14 to make.
Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves
makes 4 pints

4 cups diced strawberries
4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 tsp. calcium water
6 tsp. pectin (calcium water and pectin are Pomona brand and are sold together)
4 1/2 cups sugar

Sterilize 4 pint jars and the lids (unlike me, remember to put jars in the water before you start to heat it up). Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring fruit, lemon juice, and calcium water to a boil over medium-high heat. As the strawberries start to get juicy, use the back of a wooden spoon to crush them. Next, mix the pectin into the sugar. Once the fruit is boiling, add the sugar mixture. Stir constantly until fruit/sugar mixture comes to a boil and let boil for 1-2 minutes. Don't stop stirring unless you hate your pot and are looking for an excuse to buy a new one (there's no better excuse than burned fruit/sugar). Don't worry about the fact that the preserves look to liquidy to firm up. They will.

Next remove sterilized jars from water one at a time and fill a quarter of an inch from the top. Adjust lids until finger tight and put back in the boiling water. Process for 10 minutes. Remove and let sit undisturbed overnight. By morning, you'll have perfect strawberry rhubarb preserves for toast, muffins, or--if you're anything like Vegan Patty--straight out of the jar.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Snapshots from the Gestationally Diabetic

Better late than never, right?

Though the gestational diabetes went away with the birth of Eames, the pictures still linger. I meant to document the trials and tribulations that went along with the condition, but I could barely get it together enough to go to work everyday and then drag my ass to bed--blogging was a no go.

In reality, I had an easy pregnancy. The gestational diabetes was the one annoyance and complication that I had to deal with.* Essentially, I had to make sure that I consumed a certain number of carbs at every meal throughout the day: less than 30 at breakfast and 45 for lunch and dinner and 2 snacks of less than 15. Technically, it's not supposed to matter what kind of carbs, but I quickly found out that my pregnant body wasn't fond of many processed carbs or grains of any kind (and bananas...). Rice, quinoa, and tortillas in any amount made me feel like death, for instance. As a result, most of our meals consisted of a protein source and vegetables.** Though I should've eaten more grains for balance, I couldn't seem to make it work and I finally gave up. The sweating and racing heart and worry about the baby that resulted from a couple bites of rice just wasn't worth it. I never thought it would be so hard to live without tortillas, but it quickly became obvious that I wrap almost everything in a lovely flattened, flour package of joy.

In retrospect, I think even those without diabetes of any kind can learn a lesson from this. Processed carbs are hard on the body and I think we'd all do well to limit them even when our insulin is working just like it should. So, here're some of the meals that worked for me when my insulin wouldn't:
Roasted Veggies with Smoky Seitan Stroganoff

Mini Crustless Tofu Quiche and Strawberry Salad
Josh's Special: Potato Tofu Beans and Greens
VSK's Rosemary Roasted Tofu Cubes w/ Roasted Asparagus and FUN-Kay Mashed Potatoes
Mustard Crusted Tofu and VSK's Citrus Collards w/ Raisins Redux

*And, frankly, it's one that worked out in my favor. The strictness with which I followed the diet resulted in "inadequate weight gain" and I ended up only gaining a total of 13 pounds. So, within 5 weeks of giving birth, I'm actually 16 pounds below where I started and I have a cute healthy baby.

**It's also important to note that the dietitian I saw had only one concern about my veganism: getting enough fat. I can't remember what role fat plays in insulin production now, but it's an important one and she insisted I consciously add fat to my diet in the form of oils, avocado, and the like. The sacrifices I make...

Swiss Chard Frittata and Diner Home Fries

Like many of you, I pre-ordered Vegan Brunch. However, it's likely that none of you then switched banks and forgot to update your credit card info and then got annoyed when Amazon kept sending you emails which you ignored thinking they were sales notifications or some such thing and, anyway, don't they know you just had a baby and can't be bothered with this crap? Jesus.
So, it took me a week or two to realize they really wanted to send me the cookbook I've been so eagerly awaiting (since I would argue that vegan cookbooks don't do breakfasty type stuff well, if they do it at all). I finally got it about 2 weeks ago and promptly made Mom's Morning Casserole, which was horribly unphotogenic but pretty good to taste. My second foray into the book was both tasty and good looking (mostly). The Swiss Chard Frittata was perfect with the chard I picked up earlier from the farmer's market only to have it wilt as it sat at the Community Cycles booth with Josh. I thought at first that 6 cloves worth of sliced garlic might be a bit overwhelming but the 'blonding' method does go exceptionally well with the earthiness of the chard. And the Diner Home Fries...well, you can't exactly go wrong with a potato. Isa only uses salt and pepper to season hers, but my love of paprika--especially on home fries--made me deviate from the recipe even though I usually try to make it, for the first try at least, according to directions. While the potatoes took a while, the frittata came together quickly and this was a wholly satisfying brunch/breakfast for dinner.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Vegan Baby

While having a baby isn't an excuse for slacking on the posts for many many months now, I do have some cuteness to make up for it.

Welcome Eames (who is now 3 weeks old...)!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vegan Sushi

Though the very real possibility of having a boy and all the renegotiating that comes with that has pretty much taken precedence over everything else, I wanted to make sure I got a picture of the vegan sushi we made for the shower posted before an actual baby trumps even the idea of posting a blog. Our good friend's Patty and Mary hosted our baby shower here in CO, and last time we had a party at the castle, Josh and I painstakingly crafted vegan candy corn for hours on end because Patty had a thing for it in her pre-vegan days. Since then, I ran across an idea for vegan sushi that I knew she would love given her affinity for Swedish Fish and I knew I had to make it for the shower. While the sushi received rave reviews, I have to admit that I thought it was disgusting (good thing to since it is basically what amounts to a diabetic coma in bite-sized pieces for me at the moment). It' simply a batch of vegan rice krispy treats topped with Swedish Fish and secured with the apparently rare and hard to find toxic green fruit roll-up.
Patty loved them and so did everybody else. In fact, I wasn't able to get a picture of them fast enough but, luckily, Jen snapped a picture of them on her camera phone before they were completely devoured.
High on Corn Syrup and Sugar: Patty, Josh, Dalyn, and Mary

Monday, March 9, 2009

You've Got to be &^%$#!!? Kidding Me.

I'll admit that this only partially works as an excuse since I hadn't been posting regularly anyway. But, I found out 2 weeks ago that i have gestational diabetes and the resulting drama of glucose tests and home blood testing and experimenting with food to see what I can eat has left me wanting to think about anything but food (for more on the diagnosis experience and how the hell an active vegan can possibly get gestational diabetes, see my other blog:

Fortunately, I see a dietitian tomorrow so we can sort this mess out, but there seems to be little rhyme or reason to what makes my blood sugar spike. However, I do know that if I stick to protein and veggies, I seem to do alright. That said, I threw together a mustard crusted tofu over roasted root veggies the other night and it was quite good. It's based on this recipe, though I added the greens, onions, ginger, and lime juice to some leftover roasted root veggies that we got from a dinner a friend made us. Turns out, it was tasty and diabetic friendly!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Road Trip: SLC

We decided to hit the road for a trip to Salt Lake City over Valentine's Day weekend. Many, many people looked at us a bit askance when we said we were headed to to SLC, but we went for a number for reasons. The biggest reason happens to be that SLC houses the closest Ikea to Denver and therefore flocks of Coloradans swarm into the area on weekends looking for cheap, modern furniture and reindeer balls (I'm assuming). We were indeed looking for cheap furniture, but we were also looking forward to some good vegan food and a little time in the Salt Lake City Bike Collective. Neither were disappointing; frankly, there's some good shit going down in Zion.

Exhibit A: The Avalanche
Exhibit B: Biscuits and Gravy
Exhibit C: The Mountain
Exhibit D: The American Diner
In retrospect, it was probably good that we only stayed in town for Saturday and part of Sunday. Josh and I hit up Vertical Diner for breakfast the first morning we were there, and immediately decided to come back the following morning to try more of there breakfast. I would gain 20 pounds if I lived any closer than 7 hours to this place. While I loved my first breakfast, The Avalanche, with its sampling of all the breakfast staples including divine pancakes and awesome homemade sausage, Josh's fried chicken-style seitan was undoubtedly the best seitan I've ever had in my life. And it was fried perfectly.

The only disappointment was that neither of us had room for dessert with our breakfast.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hoppin' John, Skippin' Jenny, and a Belated Happy New Year

Despite having no relationship to the South whatsoever, I decided that I liked the idea of having a New Year's tradition. I also always like the idea of making another recipe from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slowcooker (one of the 3-4 cookbooks I use incessantly). I tweaked the recipe just a bit by adding some smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, and steamed collards. I read somewhere that collards are supposed to bring even more prosperity, and who couldn't use more prosperity?
Served with Trader Joe's cornbread (imported by rental car along with some two buck chuck and other goodies), this is one New Year's tradition that I'd be happy to repeat.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Holiday Road Trip Food

I seem to have more excuses than I have blog posts and, frankly, I don't really have an excuse for that. One of the things that's kept me outta the blogosphere was our holiday road trip. For ten glorious days, we left Colorado behind and headed west for family, presents, vegan eats, Trader Joe's, and Ikea. Did I already say it was glorious? Unfortunately, I forgot my camera in half the places we ate, but I did manage a few shots and I think I can still remember them well enough to describe what I didn't snap.

In honor of the many delicious vegan meals we had on the road, I've compiled out Holiday Road Trip Vegan Eats 2008 Top 5 list:

5. Pure Luck. (LA, CA) In our quest to scope out the Bicycle Kitchen, we stumbled onpon what just might be the coolest corner in LA. All in one small little corner, there was a vegan restaurant, a bike shop, a community bike shop, and a local ice cream establishment with 5 vegan flavors of ice cream. Being a committed non-dessert person (even in the midst of pregnancy), I can't comment on the quality of the ice cream, though Josh managed to nod and express his enjoyment monosyllabically while enjoying the Banana Oreo ice cream. And, while I didn't love my Jackfruit carnitas burrito, the chickpea salad and tofu pesto sandwiches were quite good--as were the lemonade and homemade tortilla chips.
4. Hugo's Tacos. (Studio City, CA) I've been wanting to try Hugo's for quite some time and our trip to LA was the perfect excuse to go just a bit further and hit up Studio City for some tacos. The soyrizo, potato, and zucchini tacos were really good (though I wished I'd picked a different salsa for the top), but I think I preferred the soppy mess that was Josh's Ahogada Torta. It wasn't pretty and it didn't look easy to eat and the jumble of flavors was a bit confusing, but it somehow worked.
3. Green. (Tempe, AZ) Since we discovered it, our trips to Phoenix have always included a trip to Green in Tempe. They've expanded to include some grocery items now, which made me sad given that they had the Cheddar Teese and we still had 2500 miles to drive before getting back home. To reinforce the pattern, I wasn't thrilled about my entree. Unlike Hugo's Torta, the Mexicali burger did indeed have too much going on. The hummus, nacho cheeze sauce, vegan mayo, and spicy chipotle was sauce overload. I couldn't tell if the patty was any good or not. But, goddamn if the rosemary fries, artichoke gratine, crab puffs, and chocolate mint tsoynami weren't enough to make up for it.
2. Fresh Mint. (Scottsdale, AZ) This vegan(?) Thai restaurant has fake meats that satisfied even the most devoted omni's at our table. But, the real standout here--and the thing I'd go back to Scottsdale for over and over again--is the dessert. Even though we were full, we decided to give the banana fritters a try. I'm might have to turn in my sweet toothless badge. With coconut tapioca topped by fried bananas and chocolate sauce, this is one of the best desserts I've ever had.
1. Mozy's Cafe. (Encinitas, CA) The Tamale Burrito. I don't even know what else to say except that it's the most ridiculous, divine thing I've ever heard of and it never fails to delight me.

*Stay tuned for the conclusion of the road trip food. You won't want to miss it.